Part of my cyber life is the blogosphere, not a shock for you since you’re reading that on my blog. Included in my Venn diagram of blogs are those that focus on mental health issues, which also shouldn’t be a shock for anyone who reads this blog. Recently James Edgar Skye on The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog (a collaborative blog) posted about how his use of video games helps him cope with depression. That’s right, his use.
I nodded my head all the way through reading it. I don’t know when I first realized that I was using video games like a drug. Like any drug, there are downsides to video games. The memes and stereotypes have at least a kernel of truth to them. Computer games can be addictive, isolating, sedentary… As a drug used responsibly, they can be very helpful.
The main thing video games do for me is that they get me out of my own head. I can’t be knee deep in wolves, trying to solve a puzzle, or getting a neighborhood to stay prosperous if I’m ruminating on the current anxiety. It just isn’t possible. In this way, the game becomes a single-pointed focus, much the way meditation is. So why not just meditate? Because I can’t. I used to be able to, and have even gone on week-long silent retreats. My mental state now makes that simply impossible.
Sure, if my brain was functioning, I could focus that attention on writing, or something else. Because of my knees, exercise is basically out of the question, and even if it wasn’t, I still have that brain noise going on.
Speaking of brain functioning, video games require me to think, more than any other activity I can currently do. Use it or lose it is a real thing.
Considering the three-year struggle of trying, and failing, to find mental health treatment of any kind in the vast wasteland that is American medicine, especially in rural to near-rural areas, self-medicating with video games is fairly brilliant. My game playing comes and goes in spurts. Sometimes I don’t need it. Sometimes I don’t have the time (like when I had a job). And sometimes I’m too depressed even to play a game. I don’t think there’s any one type of game that would work for everyone, or that game playing itself would work for everyone. Skye’s blog post, and the comments, shows that I’m not alone in the practice, though.
Currently I’m playing Skyrim. I can’t say I’m good at it, but I’m not so bad that it makes playing super frustrating (which would be counterproductive). Over the years the games range from Myst to Minecraft, SimCity to Free Cell. Second Life, which isn’t really a game but has game-like qualities, is a different bird.
I learned some rather devastating information in the last few days. I will be playing a lot of Skyrim.
Featured image is a screenshot I took today in Skyrim. It is a rainy day in Riverwood.